A war hero and a remarkable family

Margaret and Lesley McCormick 26 April 2011
Margaret and Lesley McCormick 26 April 2011

A year ago, Ranger Aaron McCormick, from Coleraine, was killed in Afghanistan. He was 22.

On the anniversary of his death a new BBC Northern Ireland documentary, directed by acclaimed filmmaker, Henry Singer, tells how the private grief of a family for a son connects them with the grief of a town in remembrance of this young soldier and of those killed across different wars and generations.

Aaron, from Macosquin, serving with First Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, was killed in Helmand, on Remembrance Sunday last year.

This Remembrance Sunday, the documentary, Remembering Aaron, reveals the private memories and the grief, joy and pain of those closest to him with unrivalled access to his family and friends. It also focuses on the public grief of an English town, Wootton Bassett, and how the people there reached out to the McCormick family and brought them together in their shared remembrance. In Remembering Aaron, Henry Singer, who also directed the BBC One documentary broadcast earlier this year, Wootton Bassett – The Town That Remembers, follows up the earlier film which dealt with how that remarkable town prepared to honour the repatriation of Ranger McCormick and integrates both their stories.

In this 90-minute film, on BBC2 Northern Ireland at 9.00pm, Aaron’s parents, Margaret and Lesley, his girlfriend, Becky, and his brother and sisters tell about their own intimate memories of Aaron – including how young Aaron was an expert on all things Titanic, and how, growing up, the boy with the cheeky smile was the life and soul of the party.

They also recall the last time they saw Aaron alive and how they got news of his death and how they now live with his memory.

The death of Aaron connected the McCormick’s private remembrance with the very public emotions of Wootton Bassett. For more than four years, news bulletins have beamed images across the world of the repatriation of fallen soldiers through its main street and the dignified respect shown by the townspeople.

However, the images couldn’t tell viewers that many of those faces in the crowd were also grieving for loved ones lost in war. And after the media left, the dead were often forgotten.

In Remembering Aaron, Singer gives viewers the opportunity to get to know one of those repatriated - Ranger McCormick - ensuring that this soldier’s story is told and not forgotten. That story – of a life, a family and friends – could be a reflection of the lives of all those other dead troops who passed through the town.

The documentary explores how the McCormick’s grief mirrors that felt by some of those who stand in respect on Wootton Bassett’s main street and the connection between those who have lost loved ones in war. While they may come from different generations, different wars in different parts of the world, their stories of grief and remembrance unite them.

Singer said: “I filmed the repatriation of Ranger Aaron McCormick back in November 2010. After doing that, I realised I wanted to find out who Aaron actually was and to get to know his family to try to understand what they went through, and continue to go through. They are a remarkable family.”